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Long Beach Opera Announces 2022 Season

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The season will include STIMMUNG, QUANDO (PROJECT "0"), GIUSTINO, and THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE.

Long Beach Opera Announces 2022 Season

Long Beach Opera has announced an audacious 2022 season that seeks to usher in a new era for the company. In addition to the recent announcements of James Darrah as Artistic Director and Derrell Acon as Associate Artistic Director, LBO has announced the appointment of conductor Christopher Rountree as its new Music Director, beginning immediately. Rountree recently made his LBO debut conducting Philip Glass' Les Enfants Terribles, directed by Darrah.

The 2022 season will establish a bold new vision for the company that seeks to catalyze the issues of our times through the lens of art, embraces alternative leadership models that value diversity and inclusion, creates and explores the collaborative relationships between cinematic and live opera that invite new audiences, and acknowledges that opera has the power to be relevant, provocative, and inspiring.

Information about season tickets at longbeachopera.org.

The season will begin in March of 2022 with a new production of Karlheinz Stockhausen's acapella opera STIMMUNG. This transcendental meditation through music will become a literal feast for the senses in a new production at LBO directed by Alexander Gedeon and conducted by Jenny Wong. The season continues with a new short film and live performance entitled QUANDO creatively produced by Derrell Acon. Music from Verdi's operas La Traviata and Don Carlo and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice are repurposed and refashioned into a 25-minute short film, which will be presented with a live performance in April of 2022.

In May, LBO will present a new production and adaptation of Handel's Giustino, conceived of and directed by Artistic Director James Darrah, conducted by Music Director Christopher Rountree, and featuring a score adaptation and new music composed by Shelley Washington. Finally, LBO will end its season with Anthony Davis & Richard Wesley's The Central Park Five. The Pulitzer Prize winning opera will be presented in a brand new production directed by actor/director and star of Apple TV+'s "The Morning Show" DeSean Terry.

In addition to LBO's exciting new season featuring projects curated by new Artistic Director James Darrah, new Associate Artistic Director Derrell Acon and Minister of Culture/ Artist in Residence Alexander Gedeon, LBO is adding a new member to its senior leadership team; Christopher Rountree will serve as LBO's new Music Director, effective immediately.

Rountree, the founder and Artistic Director of Wild Up, is a lauded conductor who has made a name for himself in contemporary music and opera from Los Angeles to New York City, including multiple collaborations with James Darrah such as the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli's Proving Up in Omaha and New York City. In addition to his duties as Music Director, Rountree will conduct at least one project per season during his tenure including this season's Giustino, directed by Darrah.

James Darrah LBO's new Artistic Director and CCO states, "The future of opera at LBO involves empowering dynamic teams of artistic leaders in the field in ways that consistently challenge expectations. I'm so happy to welcome my good friend and one of my favorite collaborators Christopher Rountree to the LBO team and fold his unique brand of fearless, passionate music making into the fabric of LBO's exciting plans."

Darrah continued, "We are both interested in constant provocation, innovation and a deeper exploration of the exciting intersection between film and opera, orchestral ensembles and opera companies, and programming that stays on the pulse of both the opera world but also pop culture. LBO is searching for new models and new methods to incorporate our collective key values into a "season" that is not just about programming four performance periods--but curating a larger creative forum that is just, equitable and unprecedented."

"As we work to build a new identity as a creative "home" to spur a new generation of artists from all mediums ready to push on the boundaries of opera's forms, I'm excited to begin this process in 2022 by incorporating and engaging with several projects the team at LBO had already started to plan before I joined as the new Artistic Director. LBO embarks this season on a journey and evolution toward a new model of making opera and, as we seek to lead the field, we will all be making bold, unapologetic choices in this pursuit by taking real progressive action in the post-pandemic landscape."

Christopher Rountree says "It's the most remarkable thing: getting to make work with such a brilliant band of friends, and to make that work so close to home. Jenny, James, Derrell, Alexander and the whole team at LBO are poised to cut a new opera from the cloth of the old, a buzzing brilliant space where all of the arts meet, and where they intersect with justice, equity, and a thoughtful discourse about history and about the future of our society and our art. I am overjoyed to join this team, and to get to shape the music making at LBO for years to come."

General Director & CEO Jennifer Rivera states "This is an incredibly exciting and precipitous time to be at Long Beach Opera. Our upcoming season is all about the astonishingly talented game changers we have curating our projects and leading our company. And now, in addition to this Artistic team helmed by James Darrah and Derrell Acon, we are adding Christopher Rountree as our Music Director. Chris is a person who is a totally unique leader in the field of contemporary music and experimentation. He has been able to figure out what is needed in the world of music, and if it doesn't exist, create it. All I can say about the coming season with this team is: Prepare to be inspired."

More about the season:

STIMMUNG


The season begins in March of 2022 with a new production of Karheinz Stockhausen's acapella opera STIMMUNG. This transcendental meditation through music will become a literal feast for the senses in a new production at LBO directed by Alexander Gedeon and conducted by Jenny Wong. Stockhausen, one of the most important and controversial figures in the sphere of contemporary music in the 20th and 21st century, created STIMMUNG for 6 acapella voices to intone a stream of poly-linguistics: the names of gods from dozens of religions; the days of the week in myriad languages; pure vowel tones; absurd non-sequiturs. Stockhausen's eerie, static, microtonal vocal score is delivered just above a whisper. LBO's STIMMUNG takes place in a "magical kitchen" in which the audience encircles the six performers at a central table, and the singers will virtuosically prepare a meal for the audience over the hour-long duration of the piece. At the culmination of the performance, singers and the audience alike break bread together.

STIMMUNG offers a chance to reflect on the precariousness and vulnerability of human contact - both the joy and newfound awkwardness of coming together. In STIMMUNG, the identities of audience and performer are reassembled through the prism of communion. It speaks to the heart of WHY we choose live performance, and becomes a testament to its intrinsic value - in the shadow and resonance of collective health crisis and cultural upheaval. STIMMUNG becomes a meditational voyage through multiple cultures: a utopian - albeit imperfect - vision of collective consciousness.

QUANDO (PROJECT "0")


The season continues with a new, short opera film and live performance entitled QUANDO. Some of the most beautiful and famous music from the operatic canon becomes the landscape for this fierce social satire of sex, activism, and the performance of everyday life. Music from Verdi's operas La Traviata and Don Carlo and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice are repurposed and refashioned into a 25-minute short film that follows a starry-eyed young couple as their night on the town unravels into a surrealist swirl of decadence, intrigue and, ultimately, vengeful justice.

The short film, a co-production with Heartbeat Opera in New York City and produced by LBO's own Derrell Acon, will be screened as is, and then followed by a second presentation that features live composer-performers actively disrupting and reconstituting the music from the score for a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience. No two performances will be the same, as the ending will change with each iteration of the live performances, and audiences will be challenged to re-examine their perceptions of art and its role in societal transformation.

In addition to the film project, Acon is launching NO EVIL, an initiative meant to create a self-replenishing fund of seed money for new projects in the opera field by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) creators. Acon is in conversation with OPERA America, the Sphinx Foundation, and other industry colleagues about the full structure of NO EVIL Projects, which has an anticipated launch of 2022.

Says Acon about NO EVIL Projects, for which QUANDO is the pilot project, or Project "0": "As the Arts Equity Specialist for the OPERA America New Works Forum, I had the opportunity to facilitate all-BIPOC adjudication panels for granting, and was deeply impressed by the nuance of perspective and intentionality centered in those discussions. I am convinced that the financial barriers experienced by marginalized creators in the field require even more attention and action-and, frankly, money! In the short film's relentless interrogation of the operatic art form and critique on the destructiveness of performative advocacy that ultimately perpetuates harm for marginalized people and spaces, QUANDO is the perfect launch to this new and exciting initiative for tackling inequity in the field head on."

GIUSTINO


The next production of the season, Handel's rarely-performed Giustino with new music and arrangements by Shelley Washington will be conceived of and directed by LBO's new Artistic Director and visionary James Darrah, and conducted by LBO's exciting new Music Director Christopher Rountree. In this new version and production, Handel's glorious music and surprisingly relevant drama re-emerges as a site specific, cinematically driven, wild contemporary party. A story of fate, destiny, long lost familial relationships and a probing exploration of "conquerors" and their captors, LBO's Giustino will elevate the ambiguities of gender already present in baroque opera and examine how stereotypes can be shattered even in the most traditional stories. Darrah's breakthrough stylistic hybrid of cinema-theater recontextualizes the salon-like qualities of Handel's 18th century work to a transitory, temporal space, further challenging the current norms of 21st century classical music consumption.

The libretto and score will be taken apart and reassembled by Darrah, Rountree and exciting young composer Shelley Washington, who will also create some new music for the piece. The action of the scenes will move amongst the audience and to different parts of the location, and will be live-filmed to create a film within an opera--playing at all times. And just as spectators did during the time of Handel, the audience will be encouraged to truly revel in the decadence and transcendence of Handel's glorious music without the trappings of traditional, staid classical music performances.

"I've always wanted to explore Handel's potent dramaturgy and incredible stage works through the lens of cinema--and merge that with live performance to allow them to take life in more exuberant and less-precious ways. I've long been infatuated with Handel's operas but so often have wished I could do even more with them--and I feel ready to reject the staid, turgid experience of sitting through endless da capo arias in a proscenium theater. The potential to craft layered, nuanced performances with the cast through incorporating cinematography as a tool within the form is wholly exciting and I strongly feel it represents the future of opera's potential. Giustino is the perfect piece to embrace this new-type of operatic experience: one that emphatically embraces film and media as a tool to embed within Handel's bold creation, as well as a canvas for the talents of Shelley Washington and Christopher Rountree to work together with me to craft a raucous celebration and sensorial, media-rich experience."

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE


Back by popular demand and increasing societal relevance, The Central Park Five will return to Long Beach Opera as their final season offering in a brand new production directed by Juilliard-trained actor / director and star of Apple TV+'s "The Morning Show" DeSean Terry. The harrowing account of five teenagers wrongfully convicted, incarcerated and eventually exonerated remains a devastatingly relevant indictment on racial injustices in America. LBO's 2019 world premiere of the opera brought composer and "national treasure" (opera news) Anthony Davis additional recognition when the score was selected for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music. "Davis' supercharged score grippingly conveys the claustrophobia of a racist legal system and society from which there was, for these five innocent boys and their families, no exit." (LA Times).

After the critical acclaim of the world premiere and the collective awakening of the Black Lives Matter movement, LBO brings back this important, lauded work in a brand new production, featuring many of the original cast members along with some new additions. Terry's new production of The Central Park Five will reinvigorate the story of five innocent Black teenagers trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare of the American criminal justice system.

DeSean Terry says, "I see myself in the Central Park Five. With some stories there is a level of escapism, but for me this is a story of a tangible American experience that is very personal to me. I was 16 years old when I was first mistakenly handcuffed. Unfortunately, that experience is so common it almost feels like a rite of passage for Black men in America. Our country is quick to label us a threat. For many Black men, there is a shared awareness that we could easily become the next George Floyd, just as we could have been among the Central Park Five. It is a feeling beyond description, and it persists in our community to the moment of this writing. That's why the story is so relevant.

"If we want to dismantle 'white spaces,' then sometimes, as people of color, we have to move into spaces that are uncomfortable, or even triggering. This is essential to our activism. I have profound respect for Anthony Davis and Richard Wesley for telling this story in this medium. Even in Activism through Art, such as this, there is an inherent discomfort. Telling this story, in this manner, will ask many audience members to go into spaces that make them uncomfortable, but for very different reasons. These juxtapositions speak to how complex an experience we aim to create. Opera is a fascinating tool to investigate this dark, and all too real, part of American history."


ENTRY and DIGITAL PROGRAMMING


Long Beach Opera will continue its exploration of cinematic opera not only with its productions this year of the acclaimed "desert in"on operabox.tv and within the 2022 season with QUANDO and Giustino, but with the creation of new operatic short films. The first to be released this fall is entitled Entry and takes inspiration from LBO's 2022 season as an operatic cinematic dance short that explores the nature of reintegration, having just collectively experienced a period of isolation, activation, and transformation. Set against the backdrop and beauty of the American West and through the specific lens of collaboration with local indigenous artists, the film will explore isolation in an ever-expansive and changing world. Featuring a newly commissioned and composed score by Alex Simon and text by indigenous poet "BlueBird", choreography and performance by Anne Pesata and vocals by Anna Schubert, Entry will be released in the fall of 2022 as a free offering on LBO's YouTube channel and continues LBO's exploration of the merger of opera, film, and new artistic voices outside of the medium. The film is directed, shot and edited by actor/director Raviv Ullman, who starred in LBO's 'desert in'.

Information about season tickets can be found at longbeachopera.org.


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